The Art of Language

Monday, June 21, 2010

You might call Steve Penley the accidental author.

Penley, who has written a few books and is also known for his artwork, confesses to not having intended to become a scribe.


“Writing was never something I thought I would do,” said Penley.  “I stumbled my way through high school, and I stumbled my way through college.”

Painting was his passion. 

“If you have no reason to write anything,” said Penley, “it is absolutely horrible.”

But lo and behold, this artist extraordinaire has become an author extraordinaire.

Penley recently visited UWG to promote his new book, Vince Dooley’s Garden: A Horticultural Journey of a Football Coach.  His appearance was sponsored by the Cherokee Rose Writing Project.

After graduating from the University of Georgia, Penley headed to New York and specifically to the School of Visual Arts to hone his craft and build his portfolio.

“I moved to New York for awhile because I didn’t have a car,” Penley joked.  “There, you walk everywhere, so no one knows you’re broke and that you don’t have a car.”

After moving back to Georgia, Penley went to work for Robert L. Steed, painting portraits for his law firm.

“I was just rambling through life,” said Penley, “instead of trying to create a message.  I just wanted to make some money.  I know it’s horrible to say that, but when you’re starving to death, making money becomes your priority.”

The Reconstruction of America, Penley’s second book, was written as a reactionary piece to some comments made by his younger brother after he returned from a European excursion.

“My brother is one of the nicest people you’ll meet,” Penley said. “But after returning from Europe, he made a comment about America being the worst country in the world.”

Penley’s brother was not alone in his assessment.

“I discovered that a lot of high school and college-age people had the same perception as my brother,” he said.

“As children, you think of America as the good guys, but now there is so much ambiguity that you don’t know who the good and the bad guys are anymore,” assessed Penley.  “We seem to naturally deconstruct the hero nowadays.”

When he wrote drafts for Reconstruction, he wrote everything in crayon first.

“I would write elaborate sentences initially, but I couldn’t spell, so I had to take all of the misspellings out,” he said.  “You don’t have a lot of high expectations, however, with material written in crayon.  I had plenty of room for improvement.”

Penley received a 2000 Georgia Author of the Year Award for his first book, Penley.